MAKING MEMORIES

“Several minutes later, a fellow dressed only in tight skivvies came running down the stairs with the two men in hot pursuit.”

Golfland – Sunsplash – Mesa, Arizona

Living in Alaska could be tough at times for our family, where making out-of-state vacation plans was concerned. We weren’t exactly rolling in dough and airfare back then for four seats was expensive. We always had a tight budget to adhere to.

One year, my wife spent countless hours searching for the best motel prices including car rental rates. Sometimes, there was no way of getting around the high cost of plane tickets, although if purchased well ahead of time, prices would be somewhat lower.

Our vacation plans generally entailed spending a week in Phoenix, Arizona, as well as another in Lake Havasu City. Both areas offered sunshine and warm H2O, two entities that we craved.

Joleen said it looked as if we wouldn’t be able to go. After putting up with 7 months of snow, ice, and depressing darkness, I didn’t want to hear such. Begging her to make a concentrated, last ditch effort to find the lowest possible rates on everything, she obliged.

Our accommodations were to be at a Motel 6 next to the Golfland – Sunsplash entertainment center in north Mesa on Hampton Road. The popular water and miniature golf attraction was within walking distance of our room. It was as close to being a Disney World to the kids as we could afford.

A local, economy car rental firm was to provide us with ground transportation, while air travel was via Alaska Airlines with long stopovers in Seattle and Portland. It was the best Joleen could do and the kids were elated to be going. So was I.

We left Anchorage on a red eye flight, and after all the layovers, arrived at the Phoenix Airport about eight o’clock that night. By the time we picked up our car, had found something to eat, and crashed, it was going on midnight. We’d basically been traveling 24 hours straight.

Somewhere around three in the morning there was an argument outside our motel room door. The handle was jiggled as if someone was trying to get in. A few minutes later, something heavy struck the wall making a loud thud. I dialed room service for help getting no answer. Thankfully, all racket eventually quieted down after the police vehicles left.

The next morning, we jumped in our car and drove to Denny’s for a meal. Joleen had coupons from a travel brochure for Grand Slam breakfast platters. That saved us a few bucks. She also had discount coupons for Waffle House near by. On the way back to the motel we discovered our vehicle A/C didn’t work. Making a phone call to the rental agency, I was told to bring it in and trade for another.

The kids spent the rest of that day at the water park, while Joleen and I hung around keeping tabs on them. There were undesirables lurking about and we wanted to make sure they were safe. Even with sunscreen, after a day of being exposed I was burnt to a crisp. Trying to sleep that night was torture. Early the next morning I drove to a pharmacy to get some pure aloe gel. A lady at the motel desk said that’d help ease the pain.

Pulling out of the pharmacy parking lot I noticed a shimmy coming from the front of our vehicle. I chalked it up to a wheel weight falling off and nothing to worry about. We were planning on driving to Prescott the following day which was Sunday, and I’d keep a close eye on things.

Going to Prescott, there was no problem, yet on the return leg a front tire blew with a bang. Even with heavy traffic I was able to glide off the highway without incident. It was near 100 degrees outside and changing things made me soaked to the bone. Having jeans and boots on didn’t help.

Looking at the tire, I noticed it was bald in one area. The vibration was evidently caused by our automobile’s frontend being out of alignment. Hot asphalt had scrubbed tire rubber down to steel core. Cautiously limping our way back to Motel 6, we stopped first at the car rental and once again exchanged vehicles.

Come Monday morning, we decided to hang around the pool and chill. There was no one there and all was peaceful and quiet. Joleen and I sat in lounge chairs, with me having plenty of SPF 80 sunscreen on arms, legs, and face. It was as close to white grease as one could get.

Two men suddenly walked by the pool and politely nodded at us. We returned the gesture. They disappeared up a stairway to the upper rooms. Several minutes later, a fellow dressed only in tight skivvies came running down the stairs with the two guys in hot pursuit. One of them had a revolver in hand. The man being chased was much younger, and thankfully, able to outdistance his pursuers.

Police quickly arrived and we were interviewed. Evidently it was a case of an unfaithful wife, and angry husband catching her in the act. This much was told to us by the motel groundskeeper. He indicated that it was quite common there. That’s when I learned another piece of valuable information.

The motel employee was adding lots of chlorine to the swimming pool that day, telling us that Monday’s were the worst for water having high levels of E coli and salmonella.

“Kids pee in here all weekend long!”

We packed up our bags and relocated to Holiday Inn Express across the interstate. Our room was much higher in cost but safety came first. The rest of that trip, including Lake Havasu City leg was finished without incident.

Should you ask my adult children about their most memorable vacation, undoubtedly they’ll bring up this one taking place 32 years ago. My daughter Miranda wanted to know once we returned home if those two guys ever caught the young lover.

“I believe he’s still running.”, I told her. “By now he should be in Jamaica.”

Hampton Road – Motel 6 swimming pool

MONEY CAKE

“We were told beforehand that pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters were inside, thus no teeth were broken nor Heimlich maneuver needed.”

My wife and I were sitting around talking about the old days as we often do. I asked her if she’d ever heard of a money cake. She hadn’t. Telling her what this cake was, Joleen said it must’ve been a southern thing, because it was unheard of in Alma or Grinnell, Kansas. I wouldn’t know money cake logistics, although I believe it only happened for me in Selma, Alabama.

Years ago, I attended at least two birthday party’s where someone’s mom baked coins inside cakes. I guess these days it’s still done although the change is enclosed in foil first. Back then, coins were dropped into cake dough unwrapped. Supposedly, 350 degrees took care of any germs.

We were told beforehand that pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters were inside, thus no teeth were broken nor Heimlich maneuver needed. Those party goers getting a quarter in their slice became the lucky ones. Twenty-five-cents in 1960 is almost equivalent to a couple of bucks now.

Another birthday game we played entailed dropping clothespins into a milk bottle while standing on a chair. I was good at that, because my brother and I practiced at home before going to a party. We kept a milk bottle and clothes pins on hand.

“Pin the Donkey On a Tail” was another fun game. Name is switched around here to make sure readers are awake. I was a pro at this, unless of course I was twirled around first before doing the pinning. At this point, nausea took over with me not knowing up from down. It wasn’t until years later that I discovered vertigo caused this. Merry rounds even gave me an extreme case of dizziness.

There’s one childhood game in particular I played, that I’ve never heard anyone else mention. Joleen says she didn’t take part in anything like it. I only went to one party where this event happened, and that was at Soapstone Creek in Selma.

Kids were given partially inflated balloons, and the object of this game was to sit on them until rubber popped. When balloons are underinflated that’s hard to do. The first participant popping their balloon wins the prize. I only recall this event because I couldn’t get mine to explode. Whatever adult though up this game must’ve been tormented as a kid, and wanted some retribution.

Birthday’s have changed considerably since I was a boy. Children now play electronic games, along with tossing beanbags into round holes. In the south, that’s called cornhole. I’m sure it is in Kansas as well. There’s even an electronic version of “Pin the Tail On a Donkey.”

If I could go back in time and attend any one party, it’d be that one where we tried popping balloons using our behinds. Knowing what I do now, I’d take along a sharp pin to quickly finish things off, celebrating my win of course, with a slice of chocolate money cake, loaded to the icing with shiny quarters!

RIGHTY TIGHTY – LEFTY LOOSEY

“The popular saying doesn’t always hold water.”

Is the brake pedal on left side or right side?

Years ago, a veteran mechanic I worked with used the phrase, “Righty tighty, lefty loosey” in our shop on a regular basis. I always assumed it was a subtle way of poking fun at younger technicians like myself. All was taken in good humor. Most nuts and bolts fasten this way and no reminder is needed. The popular saying doesn’t always hold water.

I was on a service call as a 16-year-old gas station attendant in 1970. A man called my boss asking for assistance on changing a flat tire. He couldn’t get the lug nuts off. Believing that I’d need a big cheater bar, it turned out the fellow’s car was an older Plymouth. The proper method for loosening nuts on this vehicle was righty loosey, lefty tighty. I had the nuts off in seconds.

The vehicle owner asked me how I’d accomplished such. He was easily in his 60s or perhaps older. When I told him about Chrysler vehicles being made this way he was flabbergasted.

“Now I remember!” he moaned.

I felt like an intellectual Arnold Schwarzenegger having been able to remedy this guy’s dilemma. It only cost him $5.00 back then for my knowledge and brawn. It’d be ten times that now.

These days, some 52 years later, I have the same problem as this fellow did. Stuff that I knew a few years earlier I’ve now forgot. Even simple chores oftentimes get messed up for no reason.

Today, I was at the post office to mail a package. The clerk looked at my box and then quietly remarked, “Where’s this going?”

Looking at the label, I noticed that I hadn’t included a physical address other than Eagletown, Oklahoma. Luckily, I remembered the house number and street and was able to pencil things in.

Asking the postal employee if this occurred often, I expected to hear him say it happened all the time.

“It’s quite rare.” the man answered. That didn’t make me feel good.

It’s fairly normal for older people to slowly start forgetting things. This doesn’t necessarily mean dementia or Alzheimer’s is on the horizon, but then again, it’s something to keep an eye on. My wife and I have slowed down and ritually go through a checklist of sorts before leaving the house.

Stove off?

Coffee pot off?

Curling iron off?

Doors locked?

Lights off?

Security system turned on?

Only after these things are mentally checked do we exit our garage. Sad thing is, we’ve driven away and left the garage door up. Only when the security company called and said they detected an open circuit did we turn around and correct our mistake.

I now use special caution when driving. I’ve caught myself a time or two ready to step out of a running vehicle without putting transmission in park. In this town, senior citizens all the time are hitting gas instead of the brake. Over the years, our newspaper has featured pictures of various cars and trucks on top of curbs and inside buildings. Thankfully, I haven’t reached that stage, yet.

I have friends that joke about senior moments. The older I get the less humor is found in their statements. Thinking back to Martin Allen and his joking around the shop regarding, “Righty tighty, lefty loosey,” perhaps Martin wasn’t trying to be funny after all. It might’ve been his way of mentally keeping things in perspective for his own good. He was known for telling the same stories over and over, yet no one wanted to say anything in fear of hurting feelings.

Should I ever resort to repeating the same ole tales like a broken record, it’s a given that things aren’t right upstairs. Only problem is, someone will have to tell me because I won’t know otherwise. Never mind the hurt feelings.

At that point, most likely other things will be hurting as well!

Not always!

THAT’S AS FAR AS I’LL TAKE THINGS

“Casper the Friendly Ghost” qualifies as an old white guy.”

Casper – 1938

I qualify as an Old White Guy. I believe the official age of entry is 65. Some folks love to literally flog us for what’s wrong with this country. I’ve always been told that people accusing others of problems are generally the guilty party. Adolf Hitler pinpointed Jews for creating a financial dilemma in Germany during years leading up to WWII. Citizens agreed with such until finally seeing the light.

That’s as far as I’ll take things.

Most all of my pals are old white guys. I have several old black guy friends as well, Isaiah Lewis being the oldest. I learned a lot, mechanically speaking, from being under his apprenticeship. We had good times working together. Lewis and I could talk “race” issues and never get in an argument. Lawrence Everett was the same.

Unfortunately, Lawrence died only a couple of years after retiring. I miss chatting with them both. I won’t discuss race with anyone that I don’t know these days, because it ultimately leads to wrongly being labeled a racist.

That’s as far as I’ll take things.

“Casper the Friendly Ghost” qualifies as an old white guy. He was born in 1938, thus making him 84 years old. I’ve never heard any bad said against the guy. As far as I know, Casper never caused harm or trouble to anyone.

If any of the old white guys I hang out with helped create any single problem for this country, it’d be holding down jobs too long. They prevented others from swiftly moving up as young workers often expect.

Perhaps the biggest dilemma in this happening, was that companies, agencies, and institutions weren’t able to adequately fill shoes once they departed. I know some guys, that after leaving, several workers were then needed to do the job.

I suppose if there’s a specific old white guy for me to emulate, it’d be Abraham Lincoln. On the flip side of things, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would be my old black guy peer. If Dr. King was still alive, he’d be 93 years old. Something tells me had he not been assassinated he’d still be kicking.

Abraham Lincoln on the other hand would be 213. Even with advances in modern medicine, it’d be a miracle that he’d be alive even if John Wilkes Booth hadn’t got to him.

“Casper the Friendly Ghost” will live on, and undoubtedly be accepted by ALL for years to come. That is of course, unless he decides to take a specific political affiliation. Should Casper choose the wrong side, let the flogging begin.

That’s as far as I’ll take things.

LAST STOP OR FINAL DESTINATION?

“Joleen and I aren’t pushing things to get to #19, but we’re ready at the same time.”

Looking back on where we’ve been

I wrote a humorous article regarding a semantics class I took with a friend in 1972. The subject word for my story was junk. I gave examples of associated words our teacher used for junk, with stuff, items, things, and crap heading up the list. I’m still chuckling because my Microsoft Word program flagged that last one as being potentially offensive.

To mechanics like myself and others, crap can equate to the rusty, oily junk floating around in antifreeze and other liquids. The words crud and gunk have similar meaning. I suppose to a bean counter, it could represent something entirely different.

Evidently this word’s now accepted in the medical community, because a Navage commercial on television called junk in someone’s nose exactly that. Personally, I find abortion offensive yet Microsoft Word must not.

Semantics include more than single word interpretations. Phrases, sentences, and text have areas where semantics enter the picture. Two phrases used by semantics teachers for demonstration purposes are: last stop and final destination. They can mean the same thing, yet also have totally different interpretation for various people.

When my wife and I relocated to Lake Havasu City, Arizona, we figured this would be our last stop after a multitude of moves. Some towns and cities that Joleen and I lived in over a period of 68 years, in alphabetical order, without naming states are:

Adelanto, Alma, Anchorage, Chapman, Dunlap, Emporia, Grinnell, Kingsdown, Lake Havasu City, Longford, Lubbock, Pensacola Beach, Salina, San Antonio, Selma, Vernon, and Victorville.

This amounts to 17 moves amongst us both. Those locations were merely destinations at one point in time.

It’s looking more and more as if Kingman, Arizona will be added as #18 to our list for a final stop, at least where travel in this life is concerned. We’re tired of moving, believing we’ll have just enough energy for one more. Kingman won’t be our final destination though.

Joleen and I aren’t pushing things to get to #19, but we’re ready at the same time. Something tells me that semantics won’t be needed up there!

AUTOMOTIVELY SPEAKING

“When the two of us were together, oftentimes our juvenile brains subconsciously inserted the wrong meaning just for kicks.”

One man’s junk…

Fifty years ago, I took a semantics’ class in high school along with friend, Jeff Thimsen. Our reasoning on taking this class was that it sounded easy. That turned out not to be the case. The basic definition for semantics is:

Meaning for a word, phrase, sentence, or text.

In simplistic terms, words can have various interpretations to different people. Mrs. Hutchinson was our semantics teacher in 12th grade. Jeff and I were two of her favorite students. On the first day of class, she used the word junk as a semantics’ example. She must’ve had ten variations including this one,

“One man’s junk is another man’s treasure!”

Junk to me is the same as stuff. I like to write junk. Junk to another person might be crap or things. Crap or things is often equated to a large accumulation of junk, such as items worthless or items valuable. A dog owner might use crap in describing things deposited in their yard by Rover. Dung is another version of crap and junk. A socially offensive word for all of them also starts with s. As a child, I had to brush my teeth with soap if I was caught using that word.

I’ve never been one to curse and neither was my friend. We remembered Mrs. Hutchinson’s uncensored examples and often chuckled when we heard junk used out of context. It was left up to us to put things into perspective. Depending on our frame of mind at the time, that could sometimes be a hoot.

When the two of us were together, oftentimes our juvenile brains subconsciously inserted the wrong meaning. Close friends think alike. We’d hear someone innocently use the junk word and not be able to stop laughing. People around us suddenly looked, not understanding the inside joke.

When a pastor mentioned that he needed a group of volunteers to help clean up junk in a church member’s yard, we couldn’t hold back the tears. This woman had dogs, yet preacher wasn’t referring to people cleaning up after them.

Having the same mindset, Jeff and I pictured our congregation walking around with shovels and bags while holding noses. We laughed until it hurt. Even if he’d meant dung, it’s hard to fathom exactly what word pastor would’ve used to describe such.

Awful, terrible, and bad are great examples of semantics where vehicles are concerned. Telling someone that a car is awful or terrible means the automobile is crap to my pals. Pile and heap have the same meaning. Saying that it’s bad is just the opposite. Whenever hot rods are built, we always strive for bad. That’s the epitome of getting things right.

Semantics seem to be more at play these days automotively speaking than ever before. Whereas sick used to mean physically or mentally ill, it can now be used to describe something bad, like a blown Hemi ’32 Ford coupe. For English scholars, automotively is my own creation and not a typo.

Going back to junk. There’s another misused definition of this word that I purposely left out. Most mechanics use it to describe a car or truck that can barely move up the road. This four-letter word actually comes from the word turtle. Turd is much more representative of a pokey car or truck than turt. I believe Mrs. Hutchinson would concur!

Turdle

WHO’LL READ THIS BOOK?

When a friend asked if I thought complete strangers would want to read a book about my early life, I replied, “No, they’d be more interested in hearing what a trailer park refugee has to say about theirs.”

1960 photo – Selma, Alabama

My latest book was officially released today after several months of tedious revision. Covenant Publishing Company representative, Renee Barnhill, says it’s the most unique, personal narrative she’s had the pleasure of publishing. If that’s the only accolade received, I’ll be happy. I’m sure my manuscript didn’t follow etiquette on how personal narratives are supposed to be arranged. It’s definitely unorthodox in composition, totally intentional of course.

I didn’t compose this memoir solely for profit and attaboys. The project was designed for the enjoyment of friends, family, and especially those precious grandchildren. Ultimately, folks I’ve never met will read it more than anyone.

I tried to touch base on significant events happening in my world from 1954 thru 1974. Some of the occurrence’s will never be repeated because of ever changing lifestyles. Telephone party lines come to mind. Hopefully the contents evoke a laugh or two. There’s a serious tone as well.

When a friend asked if I thought complete strangers would want to read a biography about my life, I replied, “No, they’d be more interested in hearing what a trailer park refugee has to say about theirs!”

For some odd reason, many people having never lived in trailer parks are inquisitive about such. I believe the dogmatic stigma, trailer trash, provokes such curiosity.

A fellow I worked with years ago evidently thought there was something seedy and sinister about trailer park living. I say that because he used the words trailer park people in a demeaning fashion. This misinformed soul would’ve undoubtedly purchased my book for dirt alone. Oh, there’s dirt inside, but not of the sordidness he’d desire.

A micro definition for refugee is: to flee. Generally, it’s fleeing another country to avoid persecution. Some literary critics would claim I misused the word. My family lived in a total of seven trailer courts. One of them, Dad and Mom fled for increased trailer space rent. The other was vacated for sanitation reasons; sewage leaking into yards. Poetic license gives me authority to use refugee in each case.

My original title, ORDINARY, AVERAGE GUY Memoirs of a Trailer Park Refugee, didn’t cut it.  The wording needed salsa to make things pop.

ORDINARY, AVERAGE GUY Uncensored Memoirs of a Trailer Park Refugee, did the job. When Joseph Magnolia, Covenant Publishing Company agent first saw the title, he asked if my manuscript was full of obscenities. I had to chuckle, reassuring him that there wasn’t one cuss word inside.

Amazon, plus Barnes & Noble, have agreed to carry the paperback and digital (Kindle) versions. The company employs people that review new releases for racist, anti-Semitic, or other offensive criteria before accepting. Mine passed with flying colors. Other venues will offer it as well in the coming days.

Amazon ad

Over time, search engines will eventually key upon ‘trailer park refugee’. That’ll take a couple of years or longer. Being that I don’t have the services of radio talk-show host Dennis Miller, or late-night television star, Jimmy Fallon to plug things, I had to be creative in finding a title that’d make folks voluntarily pick up a copy. Magazines do such all the time by using catchy photos on front covers.

I’ve read several highly-touted biographies, praised by television personalities and celebrities alike for interesting content. A good many were duds in my opinion. They were mentioned as being enlightening yet turned out to be stuffy and full of repeated bragging. Those books, written by highly recognizable names were hawked strictly for financial gain and bravado. Hollywood stars are faithful in patting each other on the back. Some folks will buy anything if Oprah Winfrey claims it’s good.

On the flip side, I’ve encountered numerous, from the heart, good reads, by unknown authors. They just didn’t have the push or publicity needed to put them on a best seller list. Most of these manuscripts I found on a mark down table in a secondhand store.

My goal is to sell 101 books. That same friend asking who’d want to read my book jokingly informed me I’d be lucky to peddle 100. I want to prove him wrong. Uncensored in conjunction with trailer park refugee should nudge it past the century mark.

Back cover

MY RESUME

“Last week, I gave myself a haircut and was interrupted by a phone call before finishing.”

Barber pole

It’s rare that I hear the word barber anymore. It seems to have gone the way of stewardess or waitress. Stewardesses became flight attendants and waitresses were renamed servers for whatever reason?

I prefer barber over that of hair stylist. I’d never tell friends that I was going to the salon and have my hair styled. Sissy comes to mind here. For many years I went to a barbershop and still would if I had enough on top.

That remaining hair is now cut by my own hands, using two mirrors and rechargeable clippers. In a way, I’ve become an unlicensed barber of sorts. If I were applying for a job, I’d put that on my resume along with motor-doctor and chef.

Early on, I had several barbers. A friend’s dad in Selma, Alabama named John Dennis cut my curly locks a few times. “Jimmy the Barber” in Vernon, Alabama did the same. For the most part, with Dad being military, my brother and I visited the local base barbershops. That could be a frightful experience.

Generally, a base barbershop had at least eight barbers lined up each Saturday morning. After walking in, I immediately took a number from a stack hanging on the wall. It’d take an hour or longer to get called, because there were always oodles of people ahead of me.

The waiting room reeked of cigarette smoke, Old Spice cologne, and talcum powder. I believe military barbers used talcum powder back then to soothe cuts and nicks.  It was guaranteed that I’d end up with several each trip.

One barber in particular had clippers so dull that they randomly pulled hair instead of cutting. I remember this like it happened yesterday. The man apologized, saying that he needed a new set of blades. After that harrowing and bloody experience, I cringed each time I went in, praying that I wouldn’t get him again.

What I can still visualize regarding military barber shops was the amount of hair lying on a linoleum floor. Barbers took turns with a broom sweeping it into a huge pile. I’m talking large garbage bags full of the material. A friend of ours, Randy Coggins, claimed companies used hair to stuff pillows and mattresses. For years I believed him.

Flattops were popular during my era. My brother and I wore this style, using plenty of crew wax to keep them standing tall. Mom had to constantly wash our pillow slips because of the grease.

Mohawk haircuts were the rage for some guys. Only cool or vision impaired parents allowed their boys to have them. Some 101st Airborne soldiers during WWII sported Mohawk’s to try and intimidate the enemy.

When my brother came home one Saturday morning sporting a Mohawk, he was ordered to go back and have the stripe removed. Mom was especially mad because they charged him for another haircut. I believe that was seventy-five cents back then plus tip.

I noticed that we have at least six barbershops in Lake Havasu City. Good for them! There’s nothing more American than seeing a red, white, and blue barber pole hanging outside a building. I’ve always been mesmerized by the revolving colors.

Last week, I gave myself a haircut and was interrupted by a phone call before finishing. Late that evening my wife mentioned that I’d missed a section. Looking in the mirror it was precisely in the middle of my head. Mohawk came to mind.

I left it that way for a couple of days as an act of rebellion. Sadly, Joleen didn’t notice, or if she did, nothing was said. When I finally whacked it off, perhaps a teaspoon of gray hit our sink. I watched as water washed it down the drain.

Sooner or later a giant hairball will appear and Drano will be needed. It always happens at the most inconvenient time, like when we’re out of Drano.

I’ve used a homemade snake made out of a piece of wire on more than one occasion to remove this crud. I suppose that makes me a plumber. That’ll go on my resume as well!

Mohawk haircuts on military men during WWII

NEIGHBORS

“Perhaps that’s why I chose not to get close to people right away.”

I’ve had my share of neighbors over the years. Coming from a military family, like clockwork, we had new ones every 36 months. That made it tough as a child, making friends and then losing them to a reassignment. Neighbors and friends seemed to come and go like traveling carnivals back then. Perhaps that’s why I chose not to get close to people right away. Eventually, with time, I came out of that shell so to speak.

In later years, things improved considerably. Most of our neighbors hung around for a spell. One of them did meet an untimely fate shortly after we’d purchased our first home in Alaska. Grayson Maroney built many of the houses in Elm-Rich Subdivision including his own. I only briefly chatted with the man, finding him very personable. His sons and daughter went to the same school as me.

When I learned that Grayson was killed in an auto accident not far from our residence, I was sad. This friendly gentleman always waved as he drove by. Simple gestures like that make for nice neighborhoods.

Some neighbors became lifelong friends. Bill Devine was our neighbor for close to 35 years. We’d visit and shoot the breeze almost weekly. When he became ill and eventually died, our ‘hood was no longer the same. That’s one of the reasons Joleen and I packed up and relocated. Our old stomping grounds became quite depressing with Bill, Grayson, and other old-timers gone.

I’ve had neighbors that moved, passed away, and last but not least, were hauled away. Thankfully, the latter only occurred once. This young man took out our mailbox with his car because of a constant inebriated condition. When police attempted to stop him one evening, he drove across numerous lawns and mowed down several fences trying to escape. The guy almost hit some small children in the process. He was immediately handcuffed and transported to the pokey. I never saw Tom again after that.

We’ve had more neighbors move away in Lake Havasu City than any other place combined. I’m told that’s because this is a retirement community. That might be the case, but nonetheless it doesn’t make for a happy neighborhood. Nine neighbors have disappeared in 15 years, and that doesn’t include those living in apartments. It gives me flashbacks to my former military brat days. For those never hearing such, military brat is the child of a service member.

We just recently learned that we’re losing another neighbor and good friend. I won’t mention her name, because I’m sure it’s as hard on her to leave, as it is on us seeing her go. All a person can do in cases like this is shed a few tears and wish them the best. I told my wife that perhaps we should pack up and follow her north. Having spent close to 50 winters in Alaska, Joleen quickly reminded me that she’d had her fill of ice and snow.

Having no particular place to go, it appears we’ll stay put in Arizona for a while longer. Joleen’s tempted to take an atlas, blindfold herself, and then stick a pin somewhere on the map. We’re not going to that extreme!

I recall a song about some exotic locale in Texas where folks migrate when life gets them down. I’m all for giving Luckenbach, Texas a try. It can’t be bad if Waylon and Willie say so. If them boys turned out to be our neighbors, hopefully they’ll stick around for a bit. I’d be ticked after moving there, finding that they’ve already gone!

Luckenbach, Texas

CAR GUY

“American Motors Corporation tried to emulate the new 1966 Dodge Charger with their Marlin, but failed miserably.”

1970 SD-455 Pontiac GTO

For close to 18 years my family lived in a mobile home. Dad, being in the military, towed it from base to base every 36 months. The way I viewed things back then, cars and trailer parks went together like Chevrolet and apple pie. Guys in trailer parks were always working on their vehicles and I eventually joined them.

I was blessed to grow up during the muscle car era. With Dad eventually being part-owner of a gas station, the opportunity to drive many of the hottest vehicles Detroit offered came my way. This journey started in 1969. My passion for fast cars began a few years earlier at Clark Junior High, when I discovered Hot Rod and Car Craft magazines in the school library.

Me and another kid spent so much time reading automotive periodicals, that the librarian removed them. She evidently didn’t consider them as educational material. While Dad was in the Air Force stationed at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage, Alaska, he worked evenings at Marswalk Texaco, located on DeBarr Road and Boniface Parkway. Isaiah Lewis and Doug Sizemore were also employees of this business. I loved talking to these older guys about fast cars.

One afternoon when I was hanging around the station, Doug Sizemore offered me a ride in his 1963 Ford Falcon. It had a built 260 V-8 under the hood with 4-speed transmission. He banged all four gears while I held on for dear life. I was instantly hooked on hot rods.

A young military couple in the trailer park where we lived owned a 1968 Dodge Charger R/T. It was blue with white tail stripes. Most of the time the wife drove this car. They were on my paper route. Her name was Gigi, yet I don’t recall the husband. Gigi was originally from France and a very beautiful lady. At times she was hard to understand, her thick French accent making common words sound totally strange.

When Gigi rolled by in her rumbling Dodge, she’d smile and wave at us guys. We’d always return the gesture. I’m sure the lady thought we were checking her out, but for me, it was mainly the car. I was in love and wanted one like it. Eventually, they packed up and moved to another base as military families always do, taking their precious Charger with them. I was heartbroken.

In 1969, my father, having retired from the Air Force, teamed up with Isaiah Lewis. The two men purchased Yeager’s Texaco on Taku Drive and changed the name to Wonderpark Texaco. I was hired at $2.00 an hour to pump gas, clean floors and windows, plus other assigned duties. It wasn’t long before I was changing oil, lubricating chassis parts, turning wrenches, and of course, taking the necessary test drives. Life was good!

Richard Watts was a fledgling employee of Carr’s Grocery in 1969. He had a ‘69 440 powered Plymouth GTX at that time, and must’ve been making good money. I idolized this young man for his vehicle and cool personality. To Richard, the GTX was just another mode of transportation, yet not to me. The Plymouth was like a flaming chariot of sorts.

One day, Richard stopped by to have his vehicle serviced. He had to work that morning, so “Lewis” asked me to drive him to the Carr’s grocery store on Gambell. I was elated finding I’d be piloting the GTX. It was a moment that changed my life. Most likely, Chuck Yeager felt the same when he first took the yoke of a jet fighter. I became addicted to Chrysler products because of that one driving experience.

A fellow named Tom owned a 1964 Pontiac GTO. It had a 389 with single Rochester carburetor. Tom wanted three, two-barrel carbs installed like some GTO’s came with. Lewis told me it was one of the man’s final wishes, as he had a serious health problem. Lewis made sure that happened. I got to test the car afterwards and found it quite peppy. Only a few years later Lewis informed me that Tom passed away. I remember him as being a super nice guy.

Tom’s 1964 Pontiac wasn’t as fast as a 1970 SD-455 HO GTO owned by an Army soldier named Anthony. We called him “Bob” for unknown reasons as it should’ve been “Tony.” I test drove Bob’s emerald green Pontiac on a damp rainy day. Going about 50 mph on the Glenn Highway, I punched the throttle to see what this car would do. Bob’s GTO immediately went sideways. Thankfully for me, I was able to keep it under control and out of the ditch.

Months later, I got to drive Bob’s GTO on dry asphalt. To this day, I believe it was faster than Richard Watt’s Plymouth GTX. It’d smoke the tires at will. There were Dodge Challenger’s and Plymouth Barracuda’s coming in for service all the time.

One 1970 340 Challenger belonged to a young fellow in Mt. View named Roscoe. I still remember transporting this car to a seedy trailerpark on the outskirts of Anchorage. “Cisco Kid” played the whole time on an 8-track tape player, seemingly, the song never ended. Yea, Cisco Kid was a friend of mine as well. Only those having heard this tune will know what I’m talking about. This car was quick and would easily burn rubber.

Lewis said the young man was a dealer. At first, I thought he meant a car salesman like those working at Chevy or Ford. Lewis had to further explain things to me. “Oh,” I said, after hearing what the dude actually did for a living. That’s why all those pine tree air-fresheners hung from his rear-view mirror. I recall being nauseated by their sweet smell. It was sickening to be inside that Dodge, so I always drove with the windows down.

A customer living in Manook Isle Trailer Park owned a 1967 American Motors Marlin fastback. I believe it’s the ugliest car I’ve ever sat in. The owner informed me how fast his Marlin was, saying he’d beat a Camaro or two around town. I never believed him. American Motors Corporation tried to emulate the new 1966 Dodge Charger with their Marlin, but failed miserably.

I transported this slug to Action Locksmith on Fifth Avenue for new keys. The Marlin was absolutely gutless in the power department, with an engine not having enough horsepower to spin tires even on a wet road.

I cringed that day thinking someone from high school might see me. This was the type thing that could ruin a car guy’s reputation. It was common to drive through a trailer park and see automobiles and trucks sitting on cinder blocks in driveways. That’s exactly where this Marlin belonged and eventually wound up.

The ugly AMC sat there for a couple of years before being towed away for scrap; its metal undoubtedly shipped overseas. I suppose that Marlin’s still around, reincarnated as a Toyota or Nissan.

One important thing I learned regarding my gas station days, is that I should never take my vehicle to a shop, where young guys do the servicing and test drives. I’m sure had Roscoe, Bob, Tom, and Richard Watts known how I’d treated their rides, they’d all agree!

1967 AMC Marlin